WHILE most of us know Toyota as producers of very good reliable family transport in the form of saloons, hatchbacks and people carriers, Toyota actually has a rich heritage going back over 50 years of producing sports cars.
Road Tested by Hugh Maguire
More recently, people will remember the legendary Supra, and of course, the very popular Celica.
The GT 86 is a completely new purely driver-focused car with a front engined rear wheel drive layout with normal (in other words, not low profile) tyres that really does put the fun back in motoring.
It is a two- door coupe design with four seats, making it the most compact four seat sports car in the world.
Rather than go for turbo charging or a large dissplacement engine, Toyota opted to keep things simple. In a joint collaboration with Subaru, the GT 86 is powered by Subaru’s flat four 2.0 litre Boxer petrol engine. So what is it like?
The style is very good indeed, with bulging front and rear wheel arches, a dramatic sweeping roofline and an equally dramatic tail section boasting a rear spoiler, rear diffuser and two large bore stainless steel exhaust pipes. So it really does look the part.
Behind The Wheel
The interior is somewhat minimalist and functional, but that is not a bad thing in a sports car. The figure-hugging sports seats offer great lateral support in corners, while the driving position is perfect, you sit low down in the car and really do feel part of the car.
I found the all black interior a bit oppressive in a small cabin, but otherwise, it’s fine and is lifted a bit by the red stitching in the Alcantara seats.Those two rear seats will fit just very small children.
The dashboard layout is clear and concise, and as if copying Porsche directly, the instruments are dominated by a large centrally-mounted rev counter including a race car style red upshift light, with speedometer and fuel and water gauges to the left and right of that respectively.
The centre console is dominated by a large touch screen, which unfortunately looks like an after-market fitment (but it’s not). This operates the audio system and optional navigation (if fitted). Below that are some stylish aircraft-style toggle switches. The whole design is good and very individual, which I like.
Standard equipment again is good, but not overly generous. You get climate control, a good audio system with six speakers, USB and AUX ports, electric windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and so forth.
But I missed not having any audio controls on the steering wheel, something almost all cars have now. Also, the simple trip computer does not display range under the fuel section, which is a pity.
The GT 86 also boasts traction control and a VSC (vehicle stability control) with a Sports setting which means that when selected, the system will allow the car to slide much more than normal before intervening to save the day.
You can also turn it off for track day use which puts the driver in total control of just how much you want to drift or slide through the corners, a function I highly recommend you keep for track use only, as the tail will slide quite easily when provoked.
The Subaru 2.0 litre flat four Boxer engine produces some 200hp revs to 7,400 rpm and is mated to an excellent close ratio six-speed manual gearbox.
Overall performance is good, accompanied by that unusual flat four growl, but I expected it to be quicker. I think the philosophy here is that the car has plenty of power overall and in combination with the narrow normal tyres ( same as on a Prius) it proves really good fun to drive without having to perform like a rocket.
The ride is pretty hard on back roads, and there is a good degree of noise from that Boxer engine, but it all adds to the sports car experience. You really do feel you are driving something special, and I like that.
The handling is simply excellent, with a near 50/50 weight distribution the balance of the GT 86 is perfect, making it a delight to hustle along twisty roads.
The combination of a small sports steering wheel, figure hugging seats, a low driving position, rear wheel drive and that roary engine really do give a truly involving driving experience.
I would have to vote the GT 86 a complete success! It really is a rewarding driving experience, and that, after all, was Toyota’s aim when planning the car.
It may not be super fast, but it does not need to be, as the driving experience is so involving at even moderate speeds.
The style is excellent, we know it will be ultimately reliable, it drives superbly and for those who really feel they want to revel in the pleasures of a well balanced sports car the new GT 86 will deliver.
Priced at €40,75 for either the six-speed manual or automatic, the GT 86 is a luxury in today’s economic climate, but trust me, you will love it!